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First look: Oculus Go, Facebook's standalone, iPhone-compatible VR headset

Facebook on Tuesday issued a surprise by announcing the immediate launch of its new Oculus Go standalone VR headset, which also boasts iPhone connectivity. AppleInsider got its hands on one of the first units, and offers a closer look.

Priced at $199 for 32 gigabytes of onboard storage, or $249 for 64 gigabytes, the Oculus Go is now available at Amazon, Best Buy, Newegg, or direct from Google.

Unlike smartphone-based VR platforms, including the low-budget iPhone-compatible Google Cardboard, the Oculus Go has its own displays for each eye, allowing for an immersive wireless VR experience at an affordable price, without the need for an expensive smartphone.

In the box, Oculus Go comes with the headset and adjustable straps, and a wireless motion controller with touchpad (powered by a single AA battery). The headset itself charges through an included micro USB cable, and it even has its own built-in speakers so it can be used without headphones (though headphones can, optionally, be plugged in through an integrated 3.5-millimeter jack).

In order to get started, users must connect the Oculus Go to a smartphone, including Apple's iPhone. This is accomplished by downloading Facebook's official Oculus app, which quickly finds, pairs and sets up the headset.

Initial setup includes installing updates for the Oculus Go, but the process is simple and straightforward. While you wait, users can browse apps available for the headset, and purchase them to install once it is up and running.

Many of the apps and games for Oculus Go are paid purchase, not available for free. There are, however, some free options, including a non-interactive "Jurassic World" VR experience, and apps from Netflix and The New York Times.

The headset itself is light and comfortable, with a cloth material pressed against the face that seems like it would be acceptable for interim periods of wear.

Between the lenses in the headset is a sensor that knows when a user takes the headset off. This allows the device to automatically shut down and turn off its screen, saving battery life and pausing whatever the user is doing.

The interface itself is intuitive and rather Nintendo Wii-like, featuring motion control input, with a combination of gestures, touchpad use, and head movement.

Oculus Go is certainly a step up from the likes of Google Cardboard, but nowhere near the quality — nor horsepower — of a full Oculus Rift headset, or even PlayStation VR. But at $199, it's a good entry-level VR experience that should be enough to whet the appetite of VR enthusiasts without breaking the bank.